Living Apart Together - language and multiculturalism in The Netherlands
On Wednesday 27 September, 20.30 hrs, Winternachten and the Insitute of Social Studies presented the first in a series of three paneldiscussions on the future of a multicultural Dutch society. The South African writer Etienne van Heerden, the Dutch author and socio-linguist René Appel and Auma Okwany from Kenia, discussed language politics and multiculturalism in The Netherlands: in search for three 'commandments' to deal with 122 languages.
In 'Living Apart Together – language and multiculturalism in The Netherlands', we compared the situation in our country to countries with a long multicultural tradition, notably South Africa and Kenia. In The Netherlands 122 languages are spoken. How tolerant are the Dutch, and how tolerant should they be in allowing the use of other languages from Dutch? What is the extent of Dutch language politics – as far as this exists at all – to the language politics in other multicultural societies? Is there a need for everybody to speak Dutch in public life? And why not give Turkish an official status next to Frisian and Dutch? Could South Africa, with its eleven official languages, be a model for The Netherlands? What rules for everyday speech do we need for a successful multicultural society? During the discussion the participants, together with three students of ISS and the audience, formulated three 'commandments' to deal with language in future multicultural society in the Netherlands. The panel was chaired by the Dutch/Moroccan writer Fouad Laroui.
The three commandments that were formulated:
- Thou shalt not be afraid of the tongue of another.
- All languages are equal, but Dutch is more equal.
- We must embrace differences because language diversity is a cultural treasure.
Listen to a sound recording of the whole programme on this page.